Almost a third of your time on earth will be spent working. That’s a big chunk of your life, so spending it in the wrong job can have a negative effect far beyond the office. If you aren’t on a career path that helps you reach your potential and contribute your true value to the world, it starts to chip away at your state of mind, even if you’re not ready to admit it. When you’re in the wrong job, you’ll likely experience one or more of the following emotions:
1. Apathy. You don’t really feel any emotion, good or bad, when it comes to work. Your duties are there. You check off the tasks. But they just don’t create any meaningful feelings. You rarely talk about work outside the office; in fact, you abhor it when people ask you what you do for a living. Work feels like an inevitable part of life, not a source of excitement. Not even your accomplishments and big wins bring you much joy. At the same time, the challenges that cause your colleagues to run around with their hair on fire don’t create stress for you.
2. Dread. You dread Monday mornings. You may even feel dread the night before every workday. But not all dread means you are in the wrong job. You could be in the wrong company, the wrong location, or the wrong department. A number of factors can inspire dread. To find out if it’s your role, ask yourself these questions: Do I like the people I work with? Do I feel good about the company I work for and its mission? Do I like where I work and feel OK about my commute? If you answered yes to those questions, then take a deeper look at your job to understand why it isn’t right for you.
3. Envy. You know you are in the wrong role because you wish you had someone else’s. You look at her in meetings wishing you had that job. I had a personal branding client who was a senior finance exec at a high-tech company. She was really successful and well-liked by everyone, but she just wasn’t fulfilled. The results of the 360 survey that she used to understand external perceptions had one comment that brought it all together for her. The respondent said, “You’re great at what you do, and I respect you. I just can’t understand why you’re in finance. You seem like a marketer to me.” That one comment opened a new world for her. She had intended to pursue marketing, but she landed an amazing first job in finance. She climbed the ladder rapidly in finance until she was so far away from marketing she couldn’t remember that it had been her goal.
4. Boredom. You can do your job without thinking. You are not engaged because you don’t need to be. One day seems like most others. Every day is predictable. There’s nothing to look forward to and nothing that stands out at the end of the week as a particularly valuable activity. The days turn into weeks and weeks, months. Time goes by slowly because you’re just waiting for the whistle to blow so you can leave work behind.
5. Fear. You feel like an imposter in your role and worry that you’ll be found out. You sense that you are in over your head or just not a good match with the required skills. You worry about making mistakes or threatened by your colleagues who seem better suited for the role. You get the feeling that “one of these things is not like the other,” and you think you’re the one who doesn’t fit. Every day you worry that this is the moment when they figure out you’re a fraud.
6. Frustration. Your job just doesn’t allow you to use your superpowers – the things that make you shine like a superstar. You know you could contribute at a much higher level, but your current role limits your ability to be your best self. You feel shackled and unsure how to make a meaningful change. You’re stuck.
If you’re feeling one or more of these emotions, it’s time to take charge of your career. Work should make you feel inspired, and it should be the pathway for delivering your total value to the world. Speak with a coach or your mentor. Do some introspection to define the job that’s right for you. Take career quizzes or assessments. Talk to people who have jobs you think might be right for you.
You’ll spend thousands of hours of your life working. Spend that time in a job that makes you feel exhilarated.
William Arruda is the cofounder of CareerBlast and creator of the complete LinkedIn quiz that helps you evaluate your LinkedIn profile and networking strategy.